It’s called the Windy City for a reason: the air on Chicago’s downtown streets really does have a way of pushing back. But millions brave those swirling pockets of cold every year for the sheer thrill of taking in the sights, sounds and flavors of one of America’s most architecturally stunning skylines.
A quick glance down through a plane window or up from any spot on the Magnificent Mile tell us the same thing — this city’s buildings are a physical representation of the strength and energy metaphorically coursing through the metropolis’ veins.
Not surprisingly, the preferred spot for taking it all in is, of course, the observation decks of the tallest building in the city — not to mention the country. The Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower, is quite literally the tallest building in the United States. It’s also the seventh tallest free-standing structure in the entire world when the antenna is counted, and the ninth tallest building in the world from foundation to roof.
It’s no wonder the 108-story skyscraper is such a tourist attraction; more than one million people visit its observation deck each year. Frankly, the view from the 103rd floor of the 1,451-foot tower is worth the wait and expense ($17.50 for adult admission, or $35 for a line-skipping “fastpass”).
While the “Skydeck,” as it’s called, is tremendous on its own, the Willis Tower now offers a vertigo-inducing series of four glass balconies — including their floors. The more daring of visitors can step out on to the ledge rather literally and look straight down to the city streets below, with nothing between them except a 1.5-inch pane of tempered glass.
If, as Sinatra croons, Chicago is your kinda town, this dizzying experience is not to be missed.
Photo credits: Willis Tower Skydeck